Tamarind Paste

I started this post a week ago, just after my friends and I spent a long weekend in the sunshine at a music festival. A kind of mindblowingly fun last summer hurrah. When we got home, our fridge was packed to the roof with leftover crap from the weekend, including nearly ten liters of Bloody Mary mix. I won't go into how a person actually ends up with this much tomato juice on their hands but I will say that the fridge was in general need of a clean out. That's when I found two whole jars of tamarind paste, so I decided to be practical and use some up.

tamarindpaste Just now though, a week later, I'm sitting at home, fresh from a totally different kind of weekend. A chilly one, spent indoors working at my Mum's country pub. The first chilly weekend we've had yet, Mum started ordering wood for the fireplaces and planning soups for the specials board. So, while the tamarind paste/fridge cleaning out/ hot weekend of music festivalling is no longer fresh in my mind, I'm too excited about cooking with tamarind paste not to have a little, outdated rant about it here.

So here goes, before the Bloody Mary mix made our fridge explode, I didn't know that much about tamarind paste. Usually, when it's called for in a recipe, the quantity is so small that it doesn't get right up in your dinner grill. But I have to say, after a bit of experimenting and despite a rough tasting spoonful straight from the jar, I'm in love with the stuff. There's no subsitute for the subtle, sour tang it gives. It's a tang that needs a foil though, straight from the jar, as mentioned is foul. Make sure you balance the sourness out with sweetness, from honey or dates. Then there are so many possibilities. Just check out the culinary uses section on its wikipedia page, it's phenom. Jam, baking, stews, soup, you can even use it to polish metal and fix your guts. If you've got some lying in wait from the time you made Pad Thai or Tom Yum, I highly recommend you dust it off and enjoy.

Coconut, Date and Tamarind Chutney
This stuff is gold. Sweet, coconutty and beautifully balanced with a bit of sour tamarind, it goes well on rice, in omelettes and with fish. Take care with the dates, they vary in size, so if you have monsters, you might like to adjust the amount a little. The recipe comes from my new favourite old cookbook, Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food.

125g dried coconut
1 large bunch of coriander
6-8 dates
1 tablespoon of tamarind paste, mixed with 2 tablespoons of boiling water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of 1-2 limes or lemons
1/2 a teaspoon of chilli powder
1/2 a teaspoon of salt

In a food processor, blitz the corriander until it forms a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz again, adding 1 - 2 tbs of water to loosen, if necessary.

Egyptian Eggplant and Tamarind Stew
A mix of chickpeas, tomatoes, eggplants on a thick, sweet with honey and sour with tamarind base, this is one of my favourite stews. Adapted from an Allegra McEvedy recipe.

1 large eggplant, cut into 2cm x 2cm chunks
1 onion, sliced
4 tbs olive oil 
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped,
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp corinader powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
1 tablespoon honey, molasses or fructose
1 400g can of chickpeas, or 2/3 a cup of dried chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked
4-5 medium sized tomatoes
Mint, yoghurt and rice to serve
Lemon, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C. Place the eggplant on a lightly oiled tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Set aside. In a casserole dish, saute the onion in the olive oil for around ten minutes. Add the chilli and garlic, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spices and stir, cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 a cup of water, simmer for ten minutes. Next, add the tamarind paste, honey and eggplant pieces. Lower the heat, add the chickpeas and tomatoes and let it simmer for ten minutes. Check the seasoning and serve.

date cake

Date and Tamarind Cake - My friend Alex made a loaf version of Dan Lepard's Date and Tamarind Cake for her cake blog, the Cake Doctor, which is what inspired me to make this dead set delicious cake. Recommended. 

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